April 28, 2007

Difficulty Connecting

Today I want to talk about something I find difficult to formulate in words, largely because I don't know exactly how I feel or what the problem is, except that I know there is a problem.

Joe and I can't seem to connect the way we always used to. We don't have fun anymore or any lighthearted times. I feel like he spends all those times with Karen, or expends all that energy while with Karen, who, living across the hall from him, has appropriated his apartment as an extension of her own, and is over there half the day. She goes with him to Democratic Town Committee meetings (which don't interest me) and they go out to dinner beforehand (he can still eat strained soup) where she says he jokes and keeps her laughing via the computer. But when he comes to see me, or when I go down to see him, he never jokes and has barely anything to say. Just seems exhausted and uninterested in talking. Now, I know that Karen is a talker, and very sociable, and knows how to keep a conversation going and how to talk and get people to interact, and she probably carries the conversation with Joe until he responds, but he must respond, he obviously does, if he jokes with her and gets her laughing. With me, he doesn't even try.

Now, I could feel okay about this, feel that he is more real with me, less straining to be "up" and "acceptable" with me than with Karen, except that as she boasts, he talks to her about all sorts of things; she knows all sorts of things I don't, especially from their trips to the Clinic (which she lords over me, and has forbidden Joe to allow me to go with them on). And she claims that he talks to her about how much he is troubled by not being able to eat or talk and so forth whereas he hasn't said anything about it to me, even when I ask, except that it is difficult but he doesn't suffer, ever. I have talked with him about end of life issues, about the ventilator stuff, and how he wants to have every measure taken to prolong life. But I imagine so has Karen. In any event, we don't talk about anything much, most of the time. TOnight, for example, he came upstairs with his computer, and asked me a few desultory questions, but didn't keep up any conversation and didn't really answer any of my questions, and seemed so ill and out of sorts that really I was relieved for both our sakes when he decided to leave. I didn't want him to leave so much as I felt he was too ill and uncomfortable to stay and didn't want him to stay on my account, but didn't want to say so and offend him. It's just that he often won't do something he wants to do, because he is only doing xyz because he thinks the other person wants it...and it gets so twisted that no one knows what he wants in the end and you have to simply let him suffer the consequences of not stating his own wishes.
And if you understood that sentence you are pretty good at untangling utter confusion! :)

But I'm serious. Karen, of course, continues to irritate and infuriate me with her demandingness and boasting and the way she tries to take Joe away from me (she really does, and deliberately tries to make me jealous, though she also knows that she is no competition). Every time I'm with Joe, she comes iin without even knocking, and doesn't leave when she sees I'm there but just barges right in and sits down, making it the threesome I cannot tolerate. Then I have to leave, because I cannot take anything but a one to one, especially when the third person is she. How I think I'll tolerate this threesome at Disney WOrld I can't imagine, but...

In any event, Karen aside, what is the problem between Joe and me? I wonder if it isn't the fact of his being ill. When he wasn't noticeably ill we could talk about it and about other things and it was fine, and we had good talks. But now that he cannot talk, except by computer, he seems troubled and down, and at least with me, reluctant to say much or even respond when I say something to him.
I don't handle his being ill as well as Karen does. Having had juvenile rheumatoid arthritis in her childhood and having spent a lot of time in the hospital, she is very comfortable with sick people and with the idiom of physical disability. So she is in her element, though her own disability is less apparent than she claims it is...After all, she can walk, drive, talk, socialize, travel, organize a complicated trip for three to Disney World -- where is the physical disability that keeps her and has kept her from working for twenty years? But I guess that's not up to me to decide, though I know many other people have asked that question besides me.

I know, I know, I keep coming back to Karen, when I proposed to talk about Joe. I will discuss Joe at another time. Evidently it is Karen who is more on my mind right now. So what is it about Karen then that so disturbs me? I obviously hate her guts, right?

Wrong. Or if you saw just the two of us you might think we were good friends, making jewelery or having a soda or cup of soup at the diner together. She most likely thinks that's what we are. After all, I dunno that I've given her any reason to think otherwise. I've gotten angry with her, yes, but most likely she writes that off as my bad mood or an angry whim, not as any systemic so to speak problem with the relationship. Joe knows it is, but hopefully he is not telling. I doubt he would, though, as he himself is being dishonest around Karen, doing her every wish and command so that she will drive him to the Clinic, 100 miles away, every two months. All else is secondary, including me. He has said as much. He will do any and everything she wants, no matter how unpleasant for him, no matter how costly, just to make certain that she will keep driving him. Sometimes I think that he is taking us to Disney World NOT because he wants to go but because SHE does and he can't say No to her. If I knew that, then I would not go, except if he needed me to.

But with Karen alone, I am generally speaking pleasant enough, though I don't appreciate her manipulativeness. Oh, Karen just rubs me the wrong way most of the time; our personalities clash in the worst way and I don't even think she understands that, as she tramples roughshod over me with her pushy doomineering habits.

I shouldn't complain as she does get things done, and is a master on the phone, and is planning this trip like the travel executive she used to be. But forgive me if I do complain, I do.

Posted by pamwagg at April 28, 2007 12:13 AM


Dear Pam,

I want to suggest something that came to me upon reading the comments made to this post. How will you be able to have fun with Joe at Disney World if you need most of the time alone? Would you rather be alone, and allow Joe and Karen to go their own way at night?

Or, would you be able, at least, to go places with Joe and Karen during the day? My contention is that staying alone in a hotel room isn't the optimal way to spend a vacation, if you have to spend most of, if not all of the day, in the hotel room.

In Boston last week, I made sure to be out and about during the day. But because I felt on display as a woman traveling alone (though this was only what I imagined in my head), two of the three nights I was there I ate in the hotel restaurant.

Any vacation you go on needs to be planned with a sense of expectation, comfort with the place you'll be visiting, and positive enjoyment.

Going to Disney or not going, the result would be the same. You need quality time with Joe while he's here with you, and going to Disney wouldn't change thact fact unless you were really with Joe at Disney.

At any rate, I agree with the other posts. You need to tell Joe and Karen how you feel about their behavior. Being a caregiver and enabling Joe to take advantage of you isn't good for your mental health.

Oh, Pam, do take care. We are all rooting for you. It doesn't matter whether you go to Disney or not, you have a full life and when Joe and Karen get back, I'd hope they change their tune if they really care about you.

Best wishes,
Comfort and Joy,


Posted by: Christina at May 1, 2007 06:44 PM

Dear Pam,

When it comes to Joe, you really have to talk to him directly about your concerns. I think it's important that you keep the lines of communication open between you and him, especially now that his health is failing. So talk to him sweet Pam and let him know precisely how you feel. Karen is more problematical, she's sort of a friend and sort of not, I can understand how talking openly to her would be difficult but ultimately you may have to. Tell her that sometimes you need to spend time alone with Joe. I'd say you need to be kind but firm with her. Tell her what makes you comfortable and what does not. Two women taking care of one man is difficult. Karen, who is obviously the more demanding of the two of you, takes over too often. You, my friend, need to learn to be more assertive with her. Don't always be so accomodating to Karen or Joe. Speak your mind. Otherwise you will suffer needlessly. That's my two cents...

And I strongly agree with Ing, please do post more of your poetry. I miss it too. Poetry is such a wonderful way to communicate the complexities of a situation. Write about Joe. Write about Karen. Share them with us so we can understand better and, dare I say, share them with Joe and Karen, or better yet, give them copies of the poems you write so they can take some time when they're alone to think about what you are saying to them. Sometimes it's easier to write a poem as a bridge to communication than to talk directly face to face. Anyway, it's a place to begin the discussion, an opening.

Posted by: Kate K. at April 30, 2007 05:08 PM

Dear Pam,

Very recently I’ve had the shock of learning a very painful lesson that the best way to peace, harmony and authentic love is to be brutally honest with your own feelings and wants

Think about what Pam wants and don’t give away so much that there is little left of Pam. Women give far too much away to be caretakers. That is what we have learned in our society. Karen is just another person who has learned that. Try not to be to bitter towards her as it isn’t good Karma. Do things what make you happy dear Pam. Please start writing your poetry again.

Do you know that now that I’m going through such a heartbreaking and difficult time in my life I am seeking out poetry on the net that fits my mood? I have never done that before and the reason I am doing it is because of you and Leonard Cirino’s influence on me on poetry. So, if it strikes your fancy again, please start writing poetry again. Release your feelings through your beautiful poetry. Pam, you are an artist.



Posted by: Yaya-Ing at April 29, 2007 01:26 PM

Okay, Feebe, it looks like it's a go. I wrote a long comment just a day or two ago, in which I changed my initial stance on your going to Disney World after reading about Lynnie's concerns and thinking deeply about the issue. I clicked on post and it was rejected due to incorrect security code which I know I had typed correctly. I was simply too tired to write the whole thing again. Cross your fingers that this comment will post as my "test" comment did.
After reading your latest comment, I have concluded that the whole thing has become a living nightmare for you.I based my original opinion on the premise that since Joe so wanted you to come, and you, his close and loving friend(and now his caretaker)wanted to make him happy, that it seemed almost a fait accompli that you should go. However, I am doing a very emphatic about face on my first impressions. First of all, you dread the theme park atmosphere as much as I do. Even though Lynnie's intervention surely improved the unacceptable elements for you, you are still under an enormous amount of stress and worry over a trip that is supposed to be a pleasant and desired experience for all. Furthermore, even though Joe's illness is very serious and, in fact, as was expressed, inevitably terminal, you are certainly not in the best of health, and apparently no one has made any inquiries as to any nearby facility that would be suitable for you, should you require medical intervention. The last straw is the feeling expressed in your latest blog that Joe is drawing away from you and perhaps might not really be as adamant about your coming as you thought in the beginning. I cannot comment in any way on Karen(I never have) and her role in this whole messy situation. I do not know her nor could I possibly hypothesize on her mindset vis a vis the intricate relationship that exists among the three of you. I simply just don't feel good about any facet of this trip. If anything, it has now become an arduous obligation that I now feel I never should have supported in the first place. In the best interest of all involved, I think you should be honest with Joe, Pam. He knows you well and should understand. If you tell him that you would dearly love to please him, but you feel too fragile at this point to make the trip, I hope this will end your participation. If Joe cannot accept your honesty, given with love and regret, then I would be disappointed in him indeed. In the end, it is your decision. Do what you know is best for you, and then let go of all the fear,anxiety, and worry that has been plaguing you.
With the best intentions and love, Paula

Posted by: Paula Kirkpatrick at April 29, 2007 12:52 PM

Dear Pam,
This is just a check to see if the website will reject my comment.

Posted by: Paula Kirkpatrick at April 29, 2007 12:15 PM

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